Remember Julia Bluhm? You might not recall her name, but her actions are famously inspiring. She’s the go-getter teen who began the initiative to convince Seventeen Magazine to use more realistic pictures of girls in their magazine—sans airbrush. How did she do it? A petition, of course. It’s the same way a group of fourth-graders recently petitioned Universal Studios to strengthen the environmental message in The Lorax! If there’s an issue that’s got you fired up, creating a petition is often the first step in affecting change.
So what exactly is a petition? It’s a formal request to a given entity (e.g. Seventeen), requesting a given course of action (e.g., ixnay on the airbrushing!). It used to be that a petition was strictly a pen-and-paper affair, and you had to seriously pound the pavement to reach the number of signatures needed. But like everything else today, petitions are going viral. You can still stand outside your neighborhood coffee shop with a clipboard and pad of paper, but you might reach even more potential signers if you take the online route.
Ready to go ahead and demand the change you seek? Here’s a quick primer:
Who can I petition?
Just about anyone. Corporations, government entities and even your own high school. Remember these teens from Ohio who petitioned to create a gay-straight alliance at their school? Think local as well as global.
I’m old-school. How can I petition the old-fashioned way?
First off, find out the protocol for petitioning the group you’re targeting. There may be a certain number of signatures required, for example. Be sure to research your cause completely, and then craft your petition. (Click here for some templates, examples and tips. And then…start collecting those signatures! If you want to explain your cause to people face-to-face, this is still a great option.
No, thanks. I’m all for social networking and online messaging. Where do I start?
The most popular and well-publicized option is Change.org. This website will walk you through the major components of the petition. All you have to do is fill in the blanks! Be ready with the crucial information including whom you want to petition, what you want them to do and why it’s important. There are multiple other online petition sites, including DoSomething.org, which selects two petitions per month to highlight. If yours is selected, you’ll get the full weight of their social networking power and visibility.
How can I make sure people see my petition?
Think about what would make you sign a petition. For example, creating a video to go along with your petition is a great way to increase visibility. Even a photo can speak more than words. But don’t stop there! Get creative; check out DoSomething’s website, which lists several ideas for upping your visibility. They cover everything from poetry slams to class presentations that can help boost support for your cause.
Need more proof that petitioning can achieve change? Watch this story about three teen girls who petitioned to get a female moderator for the 2012 Presidential Debates. Love it!
For more tips on writing a successful petition (and another online petition venue), check out iPetition.com.
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